How do I convince my husband with dementia that he should give up his guns?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 29, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Husband with early mild mid-stage dementia, in denial, always enjoyed hunting but probably won't be hunting again. Any suggestions on how to get him to give up the guns?

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Thanks for this excellent question as it raises an interesting challenge.

The answer to your request is actually rather simple, and will provide you and your husband with exactly what each of you wants.

Your husband has strong, fond memories of hunting and having acquired his gun collection. He continues to enjoy revisiting those fun times as a hunter, being out with his friends and enjoying nature and the hunt. There's absolutely nothing you can gain by denying your husband the enjoyment he gets from looking at his guns.

Your concern isn't as much about his giving up his guns as it is about safety. Safety, which is paramount to you, would be equally important to your husband as a former hunter and advocate of gun safety, and something he would have supported prior to his dementia.

My suggestion is to first of all remove any and all ammunition from the house so there's no chance of him inadvertently finding a live round and loading it into a weapon. Be certain that he has no further access to any ammunition. By the way, ammunition has become quite expensive, so you may consider selling it or having it sold by one of your husband's hunting buddies or a family member who still hunts.

Secondly, once all the ammunition has been removed, I'd call a local gunsmith and ask if there's a way to render those weapon temporarily useless and unable to fire live ammunition as a matter of safety. It may be as simple as removing the firing pins from the weapons, which renders them incapable of both intentional and accidental discharge.

Some of his weapons may have financial value as resale items in the future or possibly as collector's items, and you don't want to damage that future resale value. So ask the gunsmith to be sure that the firing pins can be restored to their original functional state, thereby retaining the value of the weapons if you decide to sell them.

This approach will provide your husband with the visual reminder of the pleasure he got as a hunter in days gone by, and provide both of you with the peace of mind in knowing that the weapons cannot be used to fire ammunition.

You may find as time passes that he loses interest in the weapons, and you may elect at that time to have the guns restored to operational condition and sell them or give them to other family members who hunt or collect guns, as a memento from your husband.

The biggest issues here are assuring family safety and doing so in a way that will still provides maximum pleasure for your husband every time he look at or handles one of his weapons.

I applaud you for the clarity of your planning and preparation in this situation and wish you the best of luck in the coming journey into the world of caregiving and dementia.

Community Answers

Spotacus answered...

Remove the guns and ammo from your home completely. Do not render any firearm useless so your loved one suffering from dementia may handle it. Matters can escalate quickly should the one in your care be seen pointing a firearm, useless or not, out a window or decides to walk outside with it.

A fellow caregiver answered...

If he can pack his own ammunition then make sure he has NO access to that equipment either. It doesn't take much to back a round. I've done it in the field with casings, matches, and a stick.